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Collection & Research

In addition to curating our spectacular shell collection, our team of scientists also conducts primary research in malacology. Led by Science Director Dr. José H. Leal, they work hard behind the scenes to expand scientific knowledge of mollusks and shells so we can better protect them.

Mollusks Collection

One of the largest of its kind in the United States, the Museum's collection provides taxonomic, geographic, and temporal data on marine, terrestrial, and freshwater mollusks to a broad range of stakeholders in zoology, marine biology, genetics, conservation, geology, and other fields. Funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Nautilus

The Nautilus is a quarterly, peer-reviewed scientific journal covering global malacology research. It is published by the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and edited by our own Dr. José H. Leal.

Junonia Research

The Junonia shell has been prized by collectors for generations. Not only are its shells rare, but live Junonia are also hard to come by, due to the depth at which the species is found. Until 2018, not a single video and only two photos of live Junonia existed. Now, the Museum is studying three live individuals collected during a research cruise!

Horse Conch Research

An important study published in 2022 by Dr. Gregory Herbert (University of South Florida) and collaborators, and based heavily on specimens in the Museum’s collection, confirms new and surprising conclusions about the age, growth, and reproductivity of the iconic Horse Conch. 

Eastern Seaboard Project

The Museum is part of a 17-institution collaboration funded by the National Science Foundation to establish a comprehensive and publicly-accessible database of U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico mollusks represented in the country’s most significant collections. 

Science Director & Curator,

Dr. José H. Leal

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Staff Publications


Contributing to the field of malacology through collections-based research is an important part of our mission as an educational and scientific institution. There's still so much to learn about shells and the animals that make them! Check out the latest work from our staff biologists right here.

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The Margaret Thorsen Library


We have an extensive collection of scientific and popular books, scientific journals, and shell-club newsletters from around the world. Most of our holdings are available for inter-library loan through the OCLS WorldCat system and the Sanibel Public Library, which graciously hosts the Margaret Thorsen Library holdings online.

Enjoy in-person access to the Margaret Thorsen Library by becoming a member of the Museum.​

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum volunteer librarians Cindy Timm and Candy Heise

Volunteer librarians Cindy Timm and Candy Heise

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